It is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. More than a million foreign pilgrims will also take part in the festival. The main festival site is located on the banks of a river: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar; the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati at Prayagraj; the Godavari at Nashik; and the Shipra at Ujjain. Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all their sins. The exact age of the festival is uncertain. According to medieval Hinduism, Lord Vishnu spilled drops of Amrita (the drink of immortality) at four places, while transporting it in a pot. This year the gathering will be particularly huge. Massive billboards of Prime Minister Narendra Modi dot Allahabad city because the summer election to come. The holy men were among the first procession to arrive early Tuesday.
The Naga sadhus are the biggest draw of the festival – held in the northern city of Allahabad, recently renamed Prayagraj, and can be counted on to arrive in massive colourful processions. Hospitals, banks and fire services have been set up just for the festival, along with 120,000 toilets. Hundreds of new train services are running to and from Allahabad. More than 30,000 police and paramilitaries have been deployed to provide security and manage the crowds. The atmosphere at the mela is festive, and the authorities have announced a calendar of music and dance performances.